by Mrs. Sabraw
Using the negative to express the positive has been around for more than twenty years.
Hey, Mrs. Sabraw, that book you assigned, you know, the Winter of our Discontent, well, that book is so bad.
Gosh, I’m so glad you liked it, Dexter, I thought it was an excellent example of moral inversion.
Even within the last year, a younger thirty-ish person paid me one of the highest compliments I’ve received in many months.
Hey Cheri, I can’t believe you nailed down a part time job at the GSB; you are indeed a bad ass.
Gee, thanks Fred. I’m flattered.
Steinbeck tells the story of a good man, Ethan Allen Hawley, a grocery clerk, whose circumstances in life tempt him to do things that he knows are wrong.
And funny, by the time the reader has swum around in Hawley’s mind, listening to the carping of his dissatisfied wife, accompanying him to his lousy little job where the canned goods talk to him, and watching his wormy son Allen, who plagiarizes his I Love America essay, repudiate the wrongness of the act, we find ourselves rooting for Ethan to rob a bank, have an affair, take a bribe, and turn his illegal-immigrant boss in to the authorities.
When the bad becomes good and the good becomes bad—we call that a moral inversion, because, in fact, we are cheering on the bad in the name of the good.
(Think of the 20,000 people who attended Bonnie Parker’s funeral in 1934, my grandmother, one of them…) We do this because of our own circumstances or our own personal history.
We are oppressed. We have been used. We are the wrong sex. We are the wrong nationality. We have been occupied. We have been gassed. We have been dominated.
Such an inversion is occurring in Europe right now.
The morning news tells of a vilified Angela Merkel and a vilified German working public, of a country that wants to dominate the southern European countries of Spain, Italy, and Greece—all countries whose social programs are top heavy and whose working class resents working.
So, working hard and saving money, what a population must do to stay solvent, is bad.
Paying back debts, or at least showing good faith with reasonable payments, is bad.
Leaders that lead countries that are doing such (or trying to, at least) are bad.
Or are they good?